Q. Experts are always saying that many parents install children's car seats incorrectly. What are parents doing wrong?
A. The three biggies, says Karen Blackburn, traffic safety specialist for the Automobile Association of America in Garden City: The seat is too loose, it's in the wrong spot and it's facing in the wrong direction.
"Most people can't get a good fit," Blackburn says. Parents shouldn't be able to move the base more than one inch once installed, and, ideally, not at all, she says.
Other mistakes include parents using out-of-date equipment handed down or purchased at a garage sale. Parents might also use the car's latch attachment and seat belts incorrectly or jointly, which could cause strain on the car seat and cause it to crack, she says.
Some parents use the wrong-size seat for the child's size, says Rachel Lugo, a certified car seat technician and regional director of EAC Network, a not-for-profit community organization.
Parents also use other products that they shouldn't, both Blackburn and Lugo say. For instance, a mirror they attach to a window or a headrest so they can see the child while driving. "It can get dislodged in a crash and hit your baby in the head," Blackburn says. Also, it distracts the driver. "Where are the parent's eyes supposed to be? On the road," Lugo says.
The Suffolk County Police Department and EAC Network are offering a free check from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 6 at the Southold Fire House; call 631-648-7100, ext. 219 for an appointment. Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park is offering a free check on June 14; call 718-470-3352 for an appointment.